KBR Horse Health Information

Care AND Prevention

Equine Tooth Problems
& Dental Care

Dentistry day at KBR

Dentists Ben Koertje & Jack Hanline


Note: This feature is a continuation from the section on
Equine Teeth

If the horse's dental tables haven't been kept level through floating or if he simply has poorly aligned teeth that will not stay level, more significant corrective dental work will be periodically required to keep his teeth in "safe operating condition."

This skull is of a horse that did not get dental work. Not only is it full of hooks and ramps, but you will notice that the dental tables themselves (horizontal molar planes) look like rolling hills. While the mouth has adjusted to these problems, the horse cannot chew efficiently and if ridden, cannot move his jaw comfortably when asked to flex or collect.
(The green line represents a level table.)

This skull shows teeth with proper dental maintenance. Notice the absence of hooks, level tables and the front teeth close at the same time as the molars. This horse probably experienced no TMJ pain and could move his jaw as needed to comfortably flex and collect when being ridden.

Making these kinds of corrections to a horse's dentistry requires advanced skill and specialized tools including power tools. Most horses require some sedation, usually in the form of a mild tranquilizer, since the objective here is to produce proper angles and level tables which is difficult, if not impossible, if the horse is resisting the procedure. Doing a correct job the first time will oftentimes bring about longer lasting results and much less work on subsequent dental visits.


The first part of any procedure is a complete dental inspection. Part of this inspection is manipulative, moving the jaw to determine the amount of movement available and at what points the movement meets resistance from malformed teeth. Then the horse's mouth needs to be held open with a speculum to make a thorough visual inspection.
The speculum, when properly applied, is not painful to the horse and keeps the horse's jaws still so that the dentist can observe not only the points and ramps in the horse's mouth, but also subtle issues that might be contributing to the more visible problems.
Warning: The speculum illustrated here can generate enough force to break a horse's jaw and should only be used by a properly trained expert.

On to Advanced Dental Correction.


Most of these images were taken of "Keno the Untrainable," a mustang mare that had a couple of traumatic accidents in her past and is subject to panic attacks. The point of using her in this feature is to demonstrate that a competent dentist using appropriate equipment and techniques can work on virtually any horse. Marsha Schrader, the local veterinarian was also in attendance for all the KBR dental work and administered mild tranquilizers to the various horses as needed.

Continue to Part 2

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KBR Horse Health Information, 1997 Lamm's Kickin' Back Ranch and Willis & Sharon Lamm. All rights reserved. Duplication of any of this material for commercial use is prohibited without express written permission. This prohibition is not intended to extend to personal non-commercial use, including sharing with others for safety and learning purposes, provided this copyright notice is attached.
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